Lack of room seen at colleges

Enrollment growth said to suggest online or 2-year schooling

March 16, 2001|By Michael Hill | Michael Hill,SUN STAFF

A University System of Maryland regent suggested yesterday that enrollment projections for system campuses send a message to many Maryland high school students that they will have to attend community college or take courses online if they want to continue their education at public institutions in the state.

Those enrollment estimates, presented to the Board of Regents Finance Committee, call for the number of part-time college students to soar in the next decade, driven in large part by online courses. But committee Chairman David Nevins suggested the small size of the increase in full-time students was owed not to lack of demand but rather to a lack of plans to expand system schools.

The projections call for a total enrollment growth on the 11 campuses in the state system of 47 percent by 2010 -- from 112,739 to 165,839 -- but much of that will be from part-time students attending University of Maryland, University College, the system's adult education institution that is expanding its online course offerings.

While full-time undergraduate enrollment is expected to rise by 11 percent during the decade, part-timers are projected to more than double, from 23,124 to 46,501. There are similar projections for graduate enrollment.

Nevins said that without the part-time numbers and out-of-state students, the projection of growth in traditional undergraduate students from Maryland is 7 percent to 8 percent.

"That is barely a reflection of the `baby boom echo,'" he said, referring to the expected student population bulge of the next seven years, as children of baby boomers reach college age.

Nevins said that number also does not account for growth from the increasing numbers of students attracted by the schools' rising quality.

"And it in no way reflects the growing percentage of high school graduates desiring to attend college," he said.

"These projections have a large number of public policy implications," he said, arguing that if the university system sees a growing demand for college, the regents should be asking for additional buildings and space to take care of these students, not simply ratifying low enrollment projections.

"We have to balance quality and access," he said.

Nevins did not oppose approving the numbers -- which will be sent to the full Board of Regents and then to the Maryland Higher Education Commission as part of the state's education planning process -- but added a call for a study of expansion at Towson University.

"We can expand at Towson, because there is room there," said Donald N. Langenberg, the system's chancellor. "That is not the case at Salisbury State."

Langenberg said it would be up to the regents to secure the funds needed for buildings where campuses have the space.

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